Expat Voices: Jeremy Holland on living in Barcelona
The American expat remains amazed at how alive the streets are when everyone is out but has yet to comprehend why certain thing has to be a struggle when it's completely unnecessary or nonsensical.
Name: Jeremy Holland
City of residence: Barcelona, Spain
Date of birth: 8 July 1974
Civil status: Married
Reason for moving to Spain: Needed to escape the rat-race of Los Angeles before I became Michael Douglas from Falling Down.
Lived in Spain: since 2003
What was your first impression of Barcelona?
The beauty and originality of the buildings blew me away, and I was amazed at how alive the streets were with people from all ages out and about during all times of the day and night. There was an energy that I'd never encountered before, and whenever I travel it's what I miss most.
What do you think of the food?
Before coming here, I didn't realize how diverse the cuisine was. Each region offers distinct dishes from the pescaito frito (small fried fish) of Andalucia to the butifarra (blood sausages) of Catalunya. In general, it's all rich and tasty with the only thing lacking being the spices!
What do you think of the shopping in Spain?
It's not easy finding places that aren't part of chain or clothes that fit right. And when you do, there's a question of the operating hours: closed for lunch during the week, Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday. As for the Spanish service – Don't get me started.
What do you appreciate about living in the Spain?
The value the Spanish place on the simple things in life like enjoying the company of friends and family while slowly eating a three course meal and drinking a good, inexpensive wine outside in the shade. They really do work to live.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Spain?
The fact that everything has to be an argument and a struggle, even when it's completely unnecessary or nonsensical. Having to do any official paperwork is an ordeal that can drive the sanest man mad, but even a simple exercise like buying a printer can result in you coming home empty handed and questioning your sanity.
What puzzles you about Spanish culture and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I often tease my Spanish friends by saying their national sport is complaining, but when it comes time to do something, they find an excuse not to. As for the States, I miss the convenience and service.
How does the quality of life in Spain compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
There's a reason so many people move here: great weather, warm people and bustling cities with enough vacation days to enjoy it all. Also, there's something to be said about the Spanish way of life and the premium they place on enjoying the here and now.
If you could change anything about Spain, what would it be?
I'd like to reverse the 20 years of nationalism that's breaking the country apart. After having lived in Cadiz in Andalucia and Barcelona in Catalunya, which are probably the two most opposite cities in Spain, I can honestly say - there are more similarities than differences.
True, the Catalans put in the hours and the longer days, but there's still no planning or mid-to-long term strategy behind their decision making, and they don't work any more efficiently.
And yes, the people in the north take life, work and themselves more seriously than the those from the south, but ninety percent of all Spaniards, when asked where they'd live if they won the lottery, said: In my village with my friends, my family and my bar.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Remember you're in Spain and Spain is different than where you're from. Life is backwards here. Stores and offices are closed when you think they'd be open, and open when you'd expect them to be closed.
People will chase you down the street to return a dropped pen, but won't let you out the metro before storming in, and Spanish is spoken in South American, but not here ,where it's known as Castellano.
Would you like to add anything?
Don't expect a high-level of English or any foreign language for that matter, so it's best to learn Spanish, and if you're in Barcelona – a little Catalan wouldn't hurt.
29 April 2009
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